Review Summary: That damned, infernal machine known as Grim.
Japanese musician Konagaya Jun proved in 1986 that Grim was to be a strong voice in bridging the gap between the depravity of European power electronics and the intense texture of japanoise with Folk Music
. This wholly unique and sometimes-emotionally-rotten-always-frightening approach to noise made the full-length a standout in a sea of Japanese contemporaries, yet the project was prevented from reaching full-out cult status akin to Merzbow/The Gerogerigegege due to a lengthy hiatus from ‘87 to 2009, with only one compilation being released between then. Fast forward to this (almost over) decade where the work of Konagaya is going strong with a small subset of dedicated fans.
, the project’s most recent record, is not an ever roaring beast. Much like Folk Music
before it, Grim, which now is assisted by session and live musicians, diversifies its sound as to create thoughtful and interesting dynamics. The intense, palpable highs of “Hand of Brute” and “Agave” contrast well with the field recordings featured on the beginning of “Voodoo Road” and the noisy build-ups of “Tarantula” and “Venomoon.” Build-ups are very important to Lunatic House
, as every crushing bit of distorted chaos feels earned, such as the evolution of a song like “Voodoo Road” or “Luna,” whole songs are dedicated to constructing a certain foreboding atmosphere with industrial samples and shrill synths. From the deeply unnerving nature of “Tarantula” to the uneasy brightness of “Halation,” the closer, it’s hard to say whether or not this album is at it’s best when abrasive and torturing or when it’s on the sinister come-up or come-down.
But, in reality, it’s the textured psychosis featured in the meat of “Voodoo Road” that Grim listeners signed up for. The in-betweens are masterfully executed, sure, but they’re there to aid the main event. The overwhelming, crunchy, pulverizing noise that sounds like a mix between an industrial park and an insane person armed with a malfunctioning computer, a distortion pedal, and an apparent disregard for convention is in full force here. It’s not the most inventive record in this wheelhouse (Folk Music
is a lot stronger in the innovations department) but Lunatic House
stands out as a must listen for contemporary noise. Much of the corrupted, rotten feel of Konagaya’s soundscapes is memorable; that vibe sticks in the back of your mind long after “Halation” ceases ringing against the eardrums.
The beauty of anti-music/noise/power electronics/what-have-you is it’s surreal way of portraying the depths of fear and juxtaposing it against the post-industrial-revolution sounds of thumping, crushing machines and feedback. Lunatic House
is no exception to this generalization, this Grim record definitely uses that man versus machine aesthetic to create an emotional battle between cold automation and human imperfections. Grim separates itself from the pack through Konagaya’s influences spanning over quite a few different avant-garde scenes, as well as the paranormal vibe portrayed by the harsh tones. Especially in Lunatic House
, the machine sounds haunted - like a ghost is being incessantly tortured by loud clangs, clashes, and feedback loops. Each mechanical whir is the threshold between a screaming soul and a lifeless factory. Maybe I’m projecting my own theories onto a blank canvas, but that’s the beauty of an artform as fluid as noise - it’s a cacophonous void waiting to be filled with interpretations of its own horror. Good noise should do two things: tear flesh and beg for humanity through the language of machines.